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Whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis of strains of the agent of Lyme disease Borrelia burgdorferi from Canadian emergence zones.

S. Tyler, et al  July 2018


Lyme disease is emerging in southern Canada due to range expansion of the tick vector, followed by invasion of the agent of Lyme disease Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. Strain diversity, as determined by Multi Locus Sequence Typing, occurs in this zone of emergence, and this may have its origins in adaptation to ecological niches, and have phenotypic consequences for pathogenicity and serological test performance. Sixty-four unique strains were cultured from ticks collected in southern Canada and the genomes sequenced using the Illumina MiSeq platform. A maximum likelihood phylogenetic tree of the chromosome revealed two large clades with multiple subclades. Consistent with previous studies on this species, the clades were not geographically defined, and some Canadian strains were highly divergent from previously sequenced US strains. There was evidence for recombination in the chromosome but this did not affect the phylogeny. Analysis of chromosomal genes indicated that these are under intense purifying selection. Phylogenies of the accessory genome and chromosome were congruent. Therefore strain differences identified in the phylogeny of chromosomal genes likely act as a proxy for genetic determinants of phenotypic differences amongst strains that are harboured in the accessory genome. Further studies on health implications of strain diversity are needed.

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